JELD-WEN was founded by Richard ”Dick” Wendt, an entrepreneur at heart, who learned the art of managing a manufacturing company under the tutelage of his father, Caradco executive Lester Wendt. In 1957, Iowa-based Caradco sent Dick to Oregon to help run the company’s millwork plant in Klamath Falls. Caradco decided to sell the plant at auction. Dick and four business partners, Larry Wetter, John Biehn, Gerry Wickersham, and Bill Taylor bought many of the assets on October 25, 1960 and named the new company JELD-WEN.
The name JELD-WEN had already been in use for a number of years by the Wendt family; in the 1930s Lester Wendt bought a small farm outside of Dubuque, Iowa, as a family retreat. After holding a family contest to name the farm, Dick’s cousin Jeanette Coughlin thought of the name JELD-WEN, an acronym for the names of Dick’s immediate family, and a shortened version of Wendt.
With just 15 employees, JELD-WEN quickly gained the reputation of producing a reliable product. After just two years, JELD-WEN became successful enough to begin acquiring new manufacturing facilities and expand its product offering.
One secret of the initial success of JELD-WEN was the company’s resourcefulness and deliberate decision to use for a high-value purpose every last bit of raw resource that entered its doors, a philosophy that still stands true today.
While the company looked for new business ventures to advance the company, it also was committed to investing in the local community. JELD-WEN began formal community support initiatives in 1969 and continues to provide financial assistance through grants, scholarships, and matching JELD-WEN employees’ voluntary United Way donations.
Today JELD-WEN employs approximately 21,000 people worldwide and has manufacturing, distribution and showroom locations across the United States and in 24 countries, located primarily in North America, Europe and Australia.